But today’s Taylor Report on employment practices merely underlines the extent to which her original ambitions for the office have been diminished by the loss of her majority.
“Everyone can pay lip service to wanting good quality, well-paid work but employers could offer that right here and now – they simply choose not to”. Following the recent line of employment status cases in the Employment Tribunal, the review recommends that if an individual is being controlled and supervised, they should be deemed a dependent contractor and entitled to rights such as sick pay and holiday pay.
“It is absolutely vital that we are able to separate the genuinely self-employed from bogus arrangements”.
The report, presided over by former Blair advisor Matthew Taylor, calls for the creation of a new category of worker – a dependent contractor – alongside employed and self-employed. This unbalanced commentary suggests a review that favours businesses more than workers. “There is a risk that employees will be exploited, but one hopes that the market will sort out the good employers from the bad ones”.
Announcing the publication of the review, Taylor said: “Despite the impact of the national living wage and tax credits, there will always be people who are in work but finding it hard to make ends meet”. Our initial thoughts are that this could be complicated to legislate for and enforce.
‘That means access to benefits if and when they need them, but it also means that bogus self-employment has to be dealt with. Now “employed” and “self-employed” categories exist for tax purposes and an additional category of “worker” exists in employment law.
The review has lots of focus on proposals to ensure a level playing field between different forms of employment.
“New business models, such as the gig economy, must include appropriate protection for workers enshrined in law while supporting the entrepreneurial spirit that forms the backbone of United Kingdom business”.
The Taylor Report cited HM Revenue and Customs figures that cash-in-hand payments to casual workers like gardeners and window cleaners contributed to a grey economy, which accounted for nearly 20 per cent of the gap between the amount of tax due and the total paid.
The Taylor Report called on Chancellor Philip Hammond to use this autumn’s Budget to unveil measures to clamp down on the “hidden economy”, amid estimates that cash payments cost the Treasury £6.2 billion in uncollected tax each year. The review thus suggests that such fees be paid through trackable platforms such as credit cards or PayPal. This is something we’ve long argued for, both as a way of increasing individual investment in learning (alongside state investment) and to build in more flexibility and individual ownership.
In addition to this, employers would also face higher penalties for aggravated breeches of worker’s rights if they are successfully taken to tribunal a few times over the same issue.
“Alarmingly, however, some of the proposals may make the position worse for gig economy workers, contrary to the Government’s suggestion that it is seeking to enhance workers’ rights”. In the United Kingdom and elsewhere, companies like Uber don’t class their workers as employees, but instead refer to them as “independent contractors”.
But the report, which took nine months to produce, has been attacked as “feeble” by unions and employment lawyers, with critics saying it does not go far enough to protect workers from “insecurity and exploitation”. “This would not only allow the Government to have some oversight of the work being undertaken by those working under visas in the United Kingdom, but also give confidence to consumers that the people they are paying are legally entitled to work in the United Kingdom”.
Theresa May has said she will aim to improve rights for those working in the gig economy but fell short of promising legislation to tackle the problem, as she gave a speech aimed at relaunching her faltering leadership. But it is unlikely to happen under the current government.